Au revoir, ShoXhaka – why are Arsenal shedding Xhaka so soon?


Few players in recent memory will spark as many varied reactions as would Granit Xhaka. Signed in May 2016 for a fee that approached £40m after we allegedly back away from signing N’Golo Kanté (who joined Chelsea on a somewhat lower £32m fee), Xhaka has provoked what we’ll delicately dub mixed emotions. He’s now off to Bayer Leverkusen. Au revoir, ShoXhana. Au revoir indeed.

For those who still lament and bemoan our outgoing transfer business, consider this: we’re about to sell a player who will turn 31 a month into the coming season to the only club who apparently want him on a fee that might exceed £22m. This would put him among Leverkusen’s top-five most-expensive signings ever. Depending on the details, it might make him their third-most expensive signing behind Patrich Schick (£22.5m). That would be amazing business for a player we signed seven years ago, even with his redemption arc.

Redemption arc? Um, yeah…remember back in 2019 when he was booed off the pitch while getting subbed off against Crystal Palace? In true Xhakanian (Xhaka-esque?) style, he gesticulated at the fans, cupped his ear as if to listen to their jeers, and took his shirt off as he matched straight down the tunnel. It felt like his time at the club was done and over. He’d be lumped in with Mustafi as just another late-stage Wenger signing who looked splashy on paper but ended up sh”tty on the pitch. He’d b sold to Roma (to Mourinho!) in the summer.

Fast-forward to this past season, and, all of a sudden, Xhaka is reprising Aaron Ramsey’s role. He’s popping up in the box, scoring goals, and reminding us that he was never an 8/DM to begin with; he was always meant to be something more like a 6, a box-to-box, all-action type. After he joined the Arsenal, unfortunately, he was forced into that DM role, to which he was ill-suited given his lack of pace, his aggressiveness, his desperate desire to prevent attackers from going at the likes of Sokratis. Chambers or Luiz at pace, and his propensity to get sent off by Jon “don’t call me fat” Moss. Signing Partey, a true #8, liberated Xhaka from that purgatory and allowed him to pursue his redemption.

He’s earned it. He’s back in good graces, and all is forgiven if not quite forgotten. So he wants to go off to Germany to be closer to his family. After what too many of us have put him through with our behavior on Twitter and other social media, subjecting him, his wife, and even his children to unconscionable antics, he’s more than earned it. Some of you out there have some tweets to delete and some broken glass to crawl over.

For myself, I sincerely hope that Xhaka leads Leverkusen to a Bundesliga title, maybe even a Europa League title—maybe both. Xhaka’s been a loyal, dedicated servant to this club. He’s done everything he’s been asked to do without complaint, and he now wants to step back ever so slightly from the heights his current club hope to reach. I’m fine with that. It’ll be up to Havertz and Rice (and maybe Lavia?) to step into the breach.

For as much as we’ve focused on who we’re bringing in, it seems only appropriate that we acknowledge those whom we’re sending off. I wish Xhaka nothing but the best as he flits off to Germany. I hope it’s not too cynical to admit that I’m just as excited about his departure as I am about his replacement…

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10 thoughts on “Au revoir, ShoXhaka – why are Arsenal shedding Xhaka so soon?

  1. Palladio43

    Xakha proved to be better than many anticipated in part, as you point out because he was finally played where he belonged. Sadly he had to go through hell in part because of his play but often because of his temper that led to far too many needless cards. Hopefully, cooler heads and history will not blame his rash play against Liverpool and their reversal in that match for the subsequent team collapse or slide at the end of this season.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      His hot-headedness was both a blessing and a curse (witness his courageous or foolhardy (depending on perspective) confrontation against the entire Serbian national team, when their keeper throttled a stone-faced Granit), but he did seem to learn to channel it much better than in his first few years here. We’ll miss those brass balls as well as his leadership – the rumours around Rice becoming captain seem far too early, but I get the sense that his leadership is among the other qualities that Arteta wants to bring in.

  2. Jax

    It’s the ideal time for him to leave. He’s on a high following his best season, scored nine goals (I think), aged 31, wife is homesick, eldest daughter is approaching school starting age and another team actually wants him. Granit will never be considered an Arsenal great, but cards excepted was always pretty good value on the pitch.
    I wish him all the best for at least another four years.

    1. Jax

      …although I’m now reading elsewhere that he wants to remain and play in Champions League football. There’s no pleasing some folk😜.

      1. Jon Shay Post author

        Maybe we could ask the Prem and Bundesliga to re-jigger fixtures to allow Granit to play for us on Saturdays and Leverkusen on Sundays. This would mesh nicely with our respective Champions League and Europa League midweek fixtures but does run the risk of running Xhaka into the ground.

  3. Lev Abraham

    Everything well put, great article as usual.
    Xhaka’s years with us truly could be the archetype of a heroes journey. Sadly, for all- the redemption could never be complete.oh well.
    The thought of him winning the Bundes Liga title and us winning either Premier League or UCL perhaps the same season is something I need to become reality, really. It would be the perfect tale to tell

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Thanks! I can imagine an actual hero’s journey for him that Joseph Campbell would approve – for a fitting ending, he’d have to hoist a trophy next season, whether it’s here or over there. I’d be happy with either one.

  4. A Simple Truth

    I wish I could say that I’m surprised by your showering of this underwhelming recruit with a myriad of undeserved flowers…from the get-go he made no sense in the PL, as his flattering play on the international scene was largely predicated on the space and time he would be oft-times afforded, which was never going to be the case here…in fact, he provided more excitement in one half of one singular Euros affair than he did for the whole of his time at the Emirates

    furthermore, for you to even suggest that he did everything he was asked with never a complaint is both disingenuous and a tad delusional, considering his exceedingly thirsty behaviour when he tried to force a move to Roma…somehow, someway this player not only returned to the club, he was given a considerable raise to boot and then played seemingly every f’ing minute to the detriment of other more deserving candidates

    as for his one anomalous season of somewhat productive play, he was largely ignored by opposing defences, which speaks volumes about how others assessed his ability to affect matches in advanced spaces…if you examine the tape you will see him standing alone, with no defender in sight, and even then he miss-hit his way to goals or shanked away a plethora of grade A opportunities…for all that and much more, I say good riddance to our Swiss albatross

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Neither of us is alone in our contradictory assessments, suggesting that the best explanation of his performance or limitations exists somewhere between those assessments. In other words, he’s been not as good as his supporters nor as bad as his supporters allege. Each of us could point to various moments or matches as evidence to support our case. I suspect a fan-wide poll would result in his getting something like a 6/10 rating.

      I’ll admit that I’ll be happy to see him move on because, as you say, there are other, more-deserving candidates. At the moment, we may have little choice beyond hoping that Havertz or Rice (if we ever overcome West Ham’s obstreperousness) is a more-deserving candidate.

  5. A Simple Truth

    reasonable response Jon, albeit anyone with at least one good eye and even a modicum of objectivity would find it difficult to rate this 1 year wonder on the plus side of 5, unless recency bias was clouding their vision…I’ve never seen someone who’s play at a club has been so uninspiring, considering expectations (i.e.scoring from distance, set piece specialist and unlocking opposing defences with stretch passes), yet still gets a pass, if not plaudits, from so many…maybe it has more to do with the “softness” of our team over the last decade plus, so anyone who displays anything resembling a spine, even if it’s done in a nonsensical fashion, will endear themselves to a certain segment of the fanbase…prior to this season, the whole Xhaka gig was so baffling to me that I was starting to think that he must have some Donkey Punch-like pictures of either our absentee landlord or his Bond villian wannabe son stashed in a safe somewhere…regardless, I’ll be absolutely elated when he’s out the door for good, but I’m certainly not going to engage in any premature celebratory acts until it’s been made official, as I don’t want to get burned again by this teflon clown…have a good one


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